Within weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak and preventive measures being imposed, it became clear that children would bear some of the pandemic’s most far-reaching consequences. Although apparently less affected by the virus itself, children are already suffering the hidden harms of this health crisis. Risks of violence and abuse have increased in lockdown situations, threatening children’s protection and wellbeing. Children’s futures will be affected by decisions made by politicians, communities and families to mitigate the disease and the worsening economic hardship in many countries. The most marginalised and deprived children are being hit the hardest.
The Joining Forces for Africa project “Protecting children from violence during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond” aims to ensure that children and adolescents experience reduced levels of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect. With funding from the European Union, the project targets five countries in Africa where COVID-19 is present and pre-existing child protection needs are severe – namely, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Senegal and Uganda.
The project is designed to respond rapidly to the immediate protection needs of children created by the pandemic. It also works longer term to strengthen child protection systems and build resilience of children, families and communities. Child participation is integrated systematically throughout the project, and children are key stakeholders. The project implementers seek children’s feedback about the interventions, and where possible children will be involved in generating communication to inform their peers about the work.
The project is implemented by a consortium of Joining Forces Alliance member agencies in Europe, the US and the five target countries, and is led by Plan International Germany. Joining Forces Alliance member agencies work together collaboratively in each target country, with a focus on ending violence against children. In Kenya, Senegal and Uganda, three member agencies are directly implementing the Joining Forces for Africa (JOFA) project, while in Ethiopia and Mali there are two JOFA implementing agencies. The JOFA project also supports the ongoing work on joint advocacy for child rights, undertaken by all Joining Forces Alliance agencies in-country, together with other civil society partners